Iran: A Clash of Two Cultures?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapter


Since the 1979 Revolution, the clerical regime in Iran has been limiting the legal profession’s autonomy by preventing members of the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) from freely electing their Board of Directors and by establishing a new body of lawyers—legal advisors of the judiciary—to contest the IBA’s professional monopoly. Clerics have even attempted to bring the legal profession under the control of the Ministry of Justice and merge it with the legal advisors. The IBA’s struggle to remain a civil society organisation independent of the judiciary offers a vantage point from which to explore the role of the legal profession in Iranian society and the legal system of the Islamic Republic. Why does the Iranian judiciary oppose an independent legal profession, and why does the profession refuse to capitulate? What are the implications of this ongoing conflict for the legal order of the Islamic Republic, whose political elite consists mainly of Islamic jurists? What are the socio-cultural consequences of undermining the integrity and autonomy of the legal profession? These questions will guide our inquiry.

After discussing the IBA’s development before and after the 1979 Revolution, we describe how practising attorneys view the IBA, advocacy, legal practice, legal services and their troubled relationship with the judiciary. They recount the obstacles they encounter within a politicised judicial order and explain how they preserve professional integrity within a legal system that lacks the public’s confidence. We conclude by arguing that the Islamic Republic’s attempt to subordinate the legal profession to administrative and ideological control by the judiciary reflects the clash of two legal cultures. Iranian judges reconstruct and apply Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) as part of their efforts to deliver substantive justice within a codified legal system, while IBA attorneys understand and seek to practise law consistent with the ideals of due process, certainty and uniformity in legal decision-making.


  • Reza Banakar
  • Ziaee Keyvan
Research areas and keywords


  • legal profession, Iran, Lawyers, Bar Association, legal practice, Law firms, Legal Education, Judiciary, Female Attorneys, Fiqh, Legal culture, Shari'a, civil law, Modernity, Islamic Republic, corruption
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLawyers in 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationVol1: National Reports
EditorsAbel Richard, Ole Hammerslev, Hilary Sommerlad, Ulrike Schultz
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherHart Publishing Ltd
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2019
Publication categoryResearch

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Related research output

Banakar, R. & Keyvan, Z., 2018 Jun 26, In : Iranian Studies. 51, 5, p. 717-746 29 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Banakar, R., 2018 May, In : Digest of Middle East Studies. 27, 1, p. 6-33 27 p., 27(1).

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Banakar, R., 2015 Dec 20, I.B. Tauris. 304 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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Related projects

Reza Banakar Dödsbo & Ziaee Keyvan


Project: Research

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